SEC Tournament presents a big opportunity for Alabama women's basketballBy James Ogletree | 02/28/2018 10:15pm
Having endured a full season of elation and heartbreak in just the final four games, Alabama women's basketball will begin a completely new season on Thursday when the team plays Kentucky in the second round of the SEC Tournament.
"[This is an] opportunity to bounce back from an absolutely gut-wrenching week last week," Curry said. "That certainly continued to show that we can compete with anyone on this league on any given night ... We're just excited for the opportunity that this week presents."
Those gut punches came in the form of back-to-back overtime losses to top-25 teams: first against Georgia at home on Thursday, then at LSU in the regular season finale on Sunday.
Sophomore guard Jordan Lewis said the team has put the losses in the past and is heartened by its performance against such high-quality teams. That success will remind the players to always give their fullest effort throughout the rest of the postseason.
"I think it is a motivator to know that as long as you give your best effort and know that you laid everything out on the court, that you can compete in every game," Lewis said. "You're always in the game as long as you play hard and play together."
Senior forward Ashley Williams, playing in her fourth SEC Tournament, said the volatile nature of SEC postseason basketball will also help her stay focused. Since anyone can beat anyone else, everyone on the team has to be ready in case it happens to be Alabama's night.
She added that her favorite thing about playing in this year's tournament is having a first-round bye as the No. 8 seed. The teams seeded 11 to 14 play on the tournament's opening day, and this is the first time Alabama has earned a first-round bye since 2014, Williams' freshman year and Curry's first in Tuscaloosa.
For the three years since, the team was seeded 14th, 12th, and 12th, and went 11-37 in regular season SEC games. This season, the team jumped up to the eighth seed by going 7-9 in conference, confirmation that Curry and her staff have the program on the upswing.
"It absolutely shows progress," Curry said. "I think that shows that you have yourself in position for the postseason when you're not playing on the first day ... I always tell [the players] that courage is the ability to move forward, and the courage this team has had has been astounding."
With a date with No. 1 seed and No. 2 team in the country Mississippi State looming after Kentucky, the team will need all the courage it can muster if it wins on Thursday. Taking down the Wildcats and Lady Bulldogs might be the team's only hope of being selected to play in the NCAA Tournament.
"Our only focus is Kentucky, and if we're blessed to play another day, it really doesn't matter who's in that position," Curry said. "We just need a win. Teams that have been in our same position have gotten in, but we know that every win is just another opportunity to show that we're deserving ... It's just a great opportunity regardless of what's on the other jersey."
On Jan. 25, the blue jerseys stuck it to the red ones, as Kentucky outscored Alabama 25-5 in the fourth quarter en route to a 79-54 loss, the Crimson Tide's largest defeat in the last 14 months.
The Wildcats' guard duo of Maci Morris and Taylor Murray shot a combined 15-of-22 in that game, scoring 36 of Kentucky's 79 points. Curry also said Alabama struggled defensively in the paint, allowing 36 points while only scoring 20.
"I don't think this team needs a lot of motivation," Curry said. "That loss at Kentucky was not a good thing for us. We know we have an opportunity to get that back with a win ... This team has had a chip on their shoulder lately. We've got a point to prove and we're trying to prove it right now."